Cat's whiskers include a highly sophisticated smelling system which is able to detect the slightest change of the wind's direction for instance, but also the most sudden movements around them.
Whiskers help cats to survive because they are in fact predators by instinct. Thus, being a feline species, they are very skilled in hunting smaller animals such as mice, as well as frogs, insects, birds, and so on. Whiskers actually are some sort of prominent follicles that can help cats detect their prey from a small distance much like a pair of glasses can help someone read something written in very small characters on a piece of paper. Because they suffer from presbytism, cats cannot see very well the prey they actually catch. This is the opinion of Alice Moon-Fanelli, both veterinarian and assistant professor at the Cummings Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Tufts University, mentioning the fact that whiskers can help cats get into certain circumstances, but they can also help them get out of other difficult situations.
In wilderness, cats hold their whiskers straight forward when they are about to attack their prey. This is what Michael Tewes, a professor and coordinator of the Feline Research Program at the A&M Texas of the Caesar Kleberg Wild Animals' Research Institute, said. As an expert in the life of large felines, Tewes says that whiskers can make the animals' life shorter or longer, depending on their good or bad state. They can act as warning signs helping them against the destruction of the felines' canines. The destruction of the cats' canines could have some severe consequences on the animals' general health and may even be the cause of premature death.
Domestic cats rely on the very same kind of instincts as their wild counterparts. Thus, small indoor cats can use their whiskers in order to simulate a jungle exploration or to help them walk across darker rooms and spaces while avoiding obstacles such as large furniture or heaven knows what else can come their way. According to Moon-Fanelli, who is an expert both in cat and dog behavior, suggests that whiskers can indicate the cat's general mood. Thus, if they are pointed forward, the cat may be calm and relaxed. But if the cat is in defensive or stressed out disposition, its whiskers are closer to its face.
There are 12 whiskers on each side of the cat's pout, and they are used mainly for space orientation. But cats also have some sort of eyebrows above their eyes and some eye lashes on their cheeks that help them with the protective blink and can warn them against dangers. On the wrists of their paws cats have some other kinds of hair that help them climb trees and catch their prey.
Whiskers are meant to help cats find out where they are located in a certain space, compared to the objects around them. Although whiskers are not exactly some sort of GPS for cats, they still are very useful especially because cats use them to touch objects and get information. Cats born with poor eye condition actually have longer whiskers, to help them get better oriented. Cats which were born blind or which got adapted to their poor eye condition generally have better developed whiskers or they can use them in a more efficient way than normal cats. This is the opinion of Tracy McFarland, who is both a vet and the owner of The Cat Doctor Feline Clinic in Santa Clarita, California.
Moon-Fanelli explains that whiskers are sensitive to air currents and they can catch the vibrations in order to determine the size and shape of the objects in the cat's environment, for the cats to see or touch them. They are excellent for helping cats calculate distances among themselves and the objects around them. So we must not cut or destroy in any other way the cat's whiskers. According to experts, cat's whiskers even contain blood sinuses, which make the connection with a group of nerves, causing the cats to be sensitive to soft air currents, which make the cats blink. Cats need whiskers for balance and movement, and also for tactile purposes.